Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates pledge $3 billion aid to Sudan’s new junta amid protests

Sudanese demonstrators use their mobile phone torches as lamps as they attend a mass anti-government protest outside Defense Ministry in K...

Sudanese demonstrators use their mobile phone torches as lamps as they attend a mass anti-government protest outside Defense Ministry in Khartoum, April 21, 2019. (Photo by Reuters)
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have announced a joint package of aid worth $3 billion for Sudan, where military leaders seized power from President Omar al-Bashir last week.

The two Persian Gulf Arab countries said in a statement carried by their state news agencies on Sunday that they would deposit some $500 million in Sudan’s central bank.

The Saudi Press Agency claimed that the aid was intended to strengthen Sudan's financial position, ease the pressure on the Sudanese pound and increase stability in the exchange rate.

However, the package is being viewed as an attempt to prop up Sudan's military rulers who are facing mounting pressure from protesters to cede power to a civilian government.

The protesters, who remain camped out near the Defense Ministry in Khartoum since Bashir was ousted on April 11, have demonstrated in large numbers over the past three days, pressing for a rapid transition to a civilian rule.

Both Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been courting Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who was sworn in on Friday as the head of ruling junta, the Transitional Military Council (TMC).

Burhan said on Sunday the military council is committed to transferring power to a civilian body, but protesters are frustrated with the junta dragging its feet on its implementation.

A coalition of protesters and opposition groups said the TMC is not serious about handing over power to civilians, describing the council as an "extension of the old regime".Saudi Arabia and the UAE have ties with Burhan and his deputy, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, through their participation in the kingdom's protracted war on Yemen.

The two countries have expressed support for measures taken by the Transitional Military Council following Bashir’s ouster.

Last week, Burhan praised Sudan’s distinguished relations with Saudi Arabia and the UAE, the official SUNA news agency reported.Burhan met with a joint delegation from Riyadh and Abu Dhabi last week, and received a verbal message from their leaders.

Analysts warn that both Riyadh and Abu Dhabi are striving to influence the transition process by backing the military council.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE had cultivated close ties with Bashir prior to his ouster and were reportedly exhorting him to forge relations with Israel.However, as Bashir's position became precarious, the head of Mossad met with his Sudanese counterpart in Germany as part of a secret plan by Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE to oust him, London-based Middle East Eye reported in March.

In January, Bashir lamented that he had fallen for advice from unknown parties to normalize ties with Israel in order to ensure stability in his country, but had seen the situation spiral out of hand.

Sudan, under Bashir, had forged close relations with Saudi Arabia in recent years after renouncing ties with Iran.

Faced with months of protests across Sudan, Bashir tried to backpedal on some of his policies, sacking a number of his close associates, but those measures made him even weaker and he was ultimately toppled on April 11.
Sudanese protesters gather as they wave national flags during a protest outside the army headquarters in the capital Khartoum on April 21, 2019. (Photo by AFP)

Sudan’s ruling Transitional Military Council (TMC) has warned protesters against blocking the roads leading to the Defense Ministry’s headquarters in Khartoum, where thousands of people have been holding sit-ins for days demanding civilian rule in the African country.

The TMC said in a statement on Monday that all the blockades placed on routes leading the army headquarters – which also hosts the presidential residence – should be removed.

“The roads have to be opened immediately to facilitate the movement of trains, and all means of transport in the capital and other states so as to help movement of essential items,” the military council said in a statement.

“Young people exercising the role of the police and security services in clear violation of the laws and regulations” must stop, it further warned.

The warning came a day after Sudanese protest organizers halted negotiations with the TMC about transferring power to a civilian administration following the ouster longtime president Omar al-Bashir earlier this month.Sudan’s new military ruler, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, voiced dissatisfaction with the protesters setting up checkpoints and searching those who come to the sit-in.

“It can’t continue like this because security is the responsibility of the state,” Burhan said.

The demonstrators have, however, remained defiant, pledging not to leave the checkpoints they have erected near the roads leading to the protest site in central Khartoum.

“We will carry on manning the checkpoints as usual,” 23-year-old demonstrator Kawthar Hasaballah told AFP. “No one, not even the military council, will remove us from our places.”

TMC, which took over after toppling Bashir to hand power to civilians, has been making efforts to placate protesters who reject the military rule.

Protest leaders have vowed to continue organizing sit-ins and other rallies as part of a widening campaign to confront the junta rulers and push for the transfer of power to a civilian council.Demonstrators view the ruling military council as similar to the ousted Bashir regime, who was toppled by the army on April 11 following months of demonstrations.

The protests in Sudan initially broke out on December 19, 2018, in the face of a government decision to triple the price of bread. The demonstrations quickly turned into a mass movement across the country against the ruling regime, and finally led to Bashir’s ouster.

Bashir, 75, who ruled over 30 years, took power in a coup in 1989.

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